The past week finally ended in white and cold in many areas of the Southern Tier but that breath of winter will only hold on briefly, it appears. The official start of winter is December 21st. Known also as the winter solstice, it is the “shortest day” of the year, meaning the least amount of sunlight as the sun reaches its most southern point in the sky at local noon. After this date, the amount of daylight will gradually become longer.
Here’s what you can expect for fly fishing during the first week of winter:
- Catskill Rivers Trout: The upcoming holiday weeks might be a good time to get some fishing while temps and flows are still good. The catch and release section of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc are open all year as well as the West Branch of the Delaware where it borders Pennsylvania and the Mainstem of the Delaware River. All trout are catch and release this time of year. As is typical for current conditions, nymphs and streamers will be the best fly types to use. Wooly buggers, little black stonefly nymphs, and BWO nymphs should all produce.
- Great Lakes Tribs: The Salmon River flows were recently kicked up again but this time to the 1,800 CFS level. Anglers should be very careful wading at this level and should not attempt crossing the river. Water temps have dropped to 38 degrees. Most fishing reports have been poor. Most likely the steelhead and browns in the river are re-acclimating due to the much higher flows. Keep in mind that while egg patterns can work, they will be less effective and that nymphs will begin to be a better bet. Smaller black stoneflies can be a good choice on the warmer days. Remember to change things up when the fishing gets stale. It definitely pays to experiment with size and color of flies as well as in type.
- Finger Lakes Tribs: Last week’s rains gave the tribs a bit of a boost. This may have brought some fish in, but overall, the tribs are still very low and clear. Browns and landlocked salmon will be very spooky and in hiding with the water so low and clear. Best time to fish is during low-light conditions – either early, late, or under cloudy skies. Be very careful approaching any holding area, dress to blend in, and wait and watch at first before casting. Egg patterns, nymphs, and streamers will all take fish. Fall Creek and Salmon Creek still need a lot more water. Fishing the lake shore and the mouths of the tribs might be a better choice right now.
- Local Creek / Stream Trout: Local creeks are up thanks to last week’s precipitation but remain clear with cold temps. Nymphs and streamers will be the best fly choices right now although more mild weather could bring out a few risers for midges and olives. The general trout season is closed. Local creeks, like Owego Creek and Cayuta Creek, remain open but under artificial lures / catch and release only exceptions. Other creeks, like Nanticoke Creek, are closed. Check the DEC fishing regulations before heading out.
- Warmwater Rivers: Local river flows are up due to recent rains and only the upper sections of the Susquehanna and the smaller feeder rivers such as the Tioughnioga and Chenango are wadeable. Water temps may have dropped with the recent cold weather so wait until the upcoming week’s warming trend takes hold before heading out and exploring for bass. With river temps below 50 degrees, fish will be deep in their winter lies for the most part. Remember that it is totally possible with the continued mild trend to catch walleye, pike, bass, and musky but the key is to slow the pace down. Fish the deeper pools using sink-tip lines and short leaders. Where water clarity is good, fish natural colors.
- Lakes: John Gaulke of the Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that water temperatures on the major Finger Lakes are likely in the 44 degree range with water levels low throughout the region. Here’s his lake-by-lake report: 1) Skaneateles Lake: Fishing is good for rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, lake trout, smallmouth bass (catch and release) and yellow perch. The docks have been removed from the State Launch, 2) Cayuga Lake: Fishing is fair for lake trout though should be good on the right days. Pickerel action is superb up north! Pike fishing is underway and showing some promise. Salmon fishing is just starting up with plenty of dinks around but low numbers of sizeable fish, 3) Seneca Lake: Pike fishing here is fair to good with a nice assortment of various sizes available. Salmon fishing has been poor, though a few are around, 4) Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing is excellent. Expect good action for yellow perch, smallmouth bass, pickerel and occasional pike, and 5) Owasco Lake: Expect good to very good pike fishing here and fair to good lake trout fishing.
There are no fly fishing events in the holiday week ahead.
Look for another warming trend in the week ahead. The week will gradually warm with highs reaching the mid 60’s on Christmas Eve after which a cold front will pass, dropping temps 10 to 15 degrees. There is rain in the forecast in advance of the front with most of it occurring Wednesday and Thursday. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!